Vegan Week Wraps Up

Top Ten Things I Learned by Being Vegan for a Week

vegan pizzaAll vegan!

(You can read Regi’s list here!)

1. Being vegan, even temporarily, is a good way to force yourself to eat more fruits and vegetables. When I’m hungry, I tend to reach straight for the cheese. The ratio of effort to chew to calories in stomach = very low. I tend to forget the slightly more effortful carrots, kiwi fruits, and apples. This week re-set my brain a little bit. It’s like Michael Pollan’s dogma from In Defense of Food: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

2. Non-animal foods can be surprisingly filling and delicious. Walnut-based cookies? Soy milk? Potatoes roasted in olive oil? Home made whole wheat pizza crust? Yes, please!

3. Vegan does not necessarily mean healthy. For instance, vegetable shortening? Soy White Russians? Yeahhhhh….

4. Little bits of animal products are in everything. Processed food and restaurant food are rarely as simple as they could be.

5. It’s fun to swap food, especially if your friends are good cooks.

6. Being vegan takes time, and it takes thinking ahead. Shopping for groceries, spending time at home, bringing lunch from home, throwing away less, and planning more – all these things go together.

7. If you are vegan, you can compost lots of your food waste. Composting worms eat a vegan diet.

8. Being vegan isn’t impossible. It is hard if you don’t have a strong belief that you shouldn’t ingest animal products.

I feel a little bit like a traitor here – as a pragmatic vegetarian, I know that the system of meat production in the country isn’t good for the environment in terms of greenhouse gasses (shipping and, well, methane), crop and water use (a pound of beef equals 20 pounds of corn equals 1000 gallons of water), health (antibiotics required to fight off illness for crowded herds), animal rights….

Milk and eggs don’t bother me. I know dairy farms and egg farms aren’t where I’d choose to spend my life as a cow or a chicken, but it doesn’t sicken me to think of cows and eggs loaning us their reproductive products. It’s a compromise I’ve decided to make. I should probably schedule visits for myself to see where my milk and eggs are coming from, and I know I’m probably opening myself up to angry tirades about constantly impregnated cattle. Maybe I’m not educated enough, and maybe that would change my mind.

Being vegan reminded me of trying to fast for Ramadan in Morocco. I think it’s really difficult to deprive yourself of food without a strong belief system. My whole Arabic class started Ramadan 2006 fasting earnestly – we each other, we had host families, and heck, we had a whole country to fast with – but none of us in that class was Muslim. We all lasted about a week before we crumbled. It was so frustrating to feel foggy during class, to feel hungry before sundown, and to forgo coffee breaks with the other Arabic students without a religious framework.

9. Even progressive people aren’t necessarily sympathetic to veganism. Vegetarianness has pretty much made it in mainstream culture, at least in cities. In some circles, veganness is still treated as an affront to human eating. For example, WordPress thinks “vegan” is not a word. To be fair, WordPress also thinks “WordPress” is not a word.

10. You can’t necessarily trust the USDA food pyramid. You can be happy and healthy by eating any number of ways, and the USDA isn’t immune to political forces. I am sure the grain lobbies had nothing to do with people “needing” 6-11 servings of carbohydrates per day. 11 servings of pasta?! Are you kidding me?

 

My next adventure: spending every dollar in May at a local business! Target and Best Buy don’t count.

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2 Comments »

  1. Doniree said

    Very interesting! After giving up meat for Lent and LOVING how much better I felt because of it, I’m considering making the move to vegetarianism, but it’s going to be slow and steady. I’m still allowing for white meat while I figure out how I’m going to do this, but by the end of the summer, I’d like to have it almost eliminated. It’s not a moral thing as it is for a lot of people (not that it’s a remotely good process); it’s mostly a health thing. This was interesting though, and kudos to you for having the dedication to do it!

  2. Brianne said

    Very interesting! I only made it 3 years as a vegetarian, and I can hardly imagine trying to be vegan, especially now. My husband would put up a huge fight; he likes his national chain restaurants too much. It’s cool to read that others are making it happen though, even if it’s short term. 🙂

    Also, if my understanding is correct, a “serving” of pasta, by food pyramid standards, is actually relatively small. Most folks who have spaghetti for dinner are eating 3+ servings of pasta.

    I can’t wait to see the results of your next adventure! Are you hoping to buy local products as well, when possible?

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